Saturday, December 21, 2013

Writing from Your Heart

Here's a quick anecdote for anyone considering writing as a 2014 resolution.

A gentleman (let's call him Sergei) in one of my recent classes used a proposal-writing assignment as an opportunity to write an open letter to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) arguing for improved structural engineering education in the United States. Sergei was an engineer in Russia, where he says structural foundations received greater emphasis on the undergraduate level. Now an American citizen living in New York for the past decade, he saw vast differences in the engineering education he received in Moscow from the one his son was receiving in New York. The idea of his proposal was for the ASCE to become at the least a change agent for the way the USA approaches engineering science. 

While his choice of audience and the sweep of his proposed changes were ambitious to say the least, I encouraged him to complete the assignment and send it to the ASCE for two rhetorical reasons, one of them practical and the other theoretical. The practical one is self-evident: he needed practice writing in English. The theoretical reason is no less important: what moves you to write will improve your writing.

As you resolve to improve your writing in the coming year, hold fast to those issues that inspire you, regardless of what they are. They may concern child care, democracy in Turkey, sex trafficking in the Middle East, gun control in the US, the rising popularity of chess in Asia, improved workplace safety—it doesn't matter as long as you are inspired to write. Just do the research, write about what you know, and I promise, you will see the results.